Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A beautiful thing

I'm back in Brussels now, and like anyone getting over a bereavement, I'm a bit emotionally susceptible at the moment.

Which is perhaps why I noticed something beautiful today.

I was walking under the European Commission's main HQ, the Berlaymont building, and under its wing near the metro entrance, there was a Moslem couple, girl in headscarf, kissing lengthily and very sweetly, in public. He was holding her in a very respectful, loving way, like a Disney prince planting his first kiss on the princess in the tower, like she was the most fragile and precious of flowers. And above, the Berlaymont's massive powerful bulk sheltered them and their most absolute right to be kissing in public if they want to.

I'd have taken a photo, but it would have been intrusive.

I mentioned it when I got back to the office, and discovered that they'd brightened the day of several other colleagues as well.

Even at the darkest of times, there's so much beauty and hope in the world.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sad news

This is just a quick one to let you know that I'm away because of a very unexpected and tragic family bereavement. Service will resume slowly once we've all had time to breathe a little.

Hug your loved ones and treat each other with the love you all deserve every day. There is not always a tomorrow.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Mornington Croissant

It never rains but it pours. I have to go home to Bridport for a bit. Would you please cross all available fingers, toes and any other appendage you have enough of to cross. If appropriate cross two appendages of differing types.

Mornington Crescent? But this time... with the Brussels Metro! I'll start you all off at King Baudoin. The goal station, of course, is Eddy Merckx.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Signed off

I've been signed off work with stress, which until this morning I was feeling guilty about. My blood pressure blew about three months ago and I've been taking Cozaar to keep it down ever since. However it doesn't seem to be helping with the barely suppressed panic that I'm not getting stuff done. I've been shutting my office door and yelling at colleagues when three of them try to ask me a question at the same time. I've been trying to do two tasks that require me to be in two different rooms at the same time. I woke up at 5am this morning with a racing heart because I'd forgotten to put the rubbish bins out. Physically panicking because I hadn't put the bins out. Sheesh.

It was at that point that I realised the doctor was right to sign me off work.

I've made a list in my office outlook tasks today of the various personal, professional and financial procedures that need to be done before I leave in September. It's about 40 tasks long and each of them are going to need an appointment, or two or three, before they're over. They consist of things like sorting out what I want to take with me, issuing a call for tenders for movers, getting the movers in, making a will, selling the car, renting out the spare room, getting medical check-ups, sorting out admin with Scouse Doris who is staying in the apartment, etc etc etc. It's a lot.

I'm hoping making a list with deadlines will help me deal with it better, cut the elephant up into chunks. Anyone got any other advice?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

In which I reflect on how bloody lucky I am

I grieve at the moment due to unspeakable horrors blighting the existences of close friends and family. I won't go into the horrors in question because they are other people's business. And so I choose instead today to reflect instead on one of the positive pieces of news I have had this weekend. I also wish to thank the powers that be that my own existence is currently fairly blessed, for which I am tonight trying not to feel guilty.

My beloved cousin C. has emerged from an epic battle involving his nose, a chisel, probably assorted other (hopefully) sharper instruments, and a rowdy horde of recalcitrant but now defunct polyps. He is apparently still quite himself, although morphined up to the eyeballs and sounding a bit like Kenneth Williams (see below) until they take several hundred meters of cotton wool back out of his sinuses. I wonder what will have happened to his previously honourably rugby-bashed nose. I was quite fond of it the way it was.

And now for some Kenneth Williams. They don't do gentleman comedians like this any more.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Things I've seen this week.

Julio Buitrago community, El Rama, rio Escondido. Flood warning simulation. A village committee member calls his neighbours to high ground.

Bluefields, Nicaragua. Storms have washed rubbish and filth down the hill into a barrio overnight. People are busy clearing it up.

Telica volcano, near Leon, Nicaragua. Schoolchildren performing an evacuation drill.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Off on another trip

There may be some fantastic photos when I get back from this one.

Mornington Cresent, I think. Here's the map, clicky to geopen.

Cutty Sark.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

In which I purchase a shredder

I suppose the time has come for me to tell you that my best-laid plans as announced last year have come to fruition, and I leave for somewhere where I will have to speak Spanish on or around Sept 1st this year.

As a result I am slowly trying to prepare my house for rental. This involves turning out a good 10 years' worth of accumulated archived bank documents, salary slips, and other assorted private information. One hears such dreadful stories about identity cloning that I haven't been throwing these away, but building them up in a corner awaiting the day I got access to a shredder.

Today I bought a shredder.

I had no idea it would be such fun to see assorted documents being munched into confetti. It reminded me forcibly of a game I used to play with Pickle, us either side of a door and me wiggling a bit of paper under it in a tantalising fashion. I had a delightful 15 minutes of watching my 1995 bank statements disappear in a very similar manner until the shredder seized up from overheating. It's cooling down now. I'd call it a cheap piece of tosh, but it wasn't cheap.

Of course, what I needed was one of these:

Monday, March 10, 2008

In which I am HORRIFIED by Delia Smith

I cannot believe my ears and eyes this evening watching Delia Smith's appalling new show. I NEVER thought I would see this day, and I am absolutely aghast.

She has completely sold out to convenience food. Tinned mince. Frozen mashed potato. "Why don't you have some of these spicy potato wedges in your freezer?".

Well I'll tell you Delia. Because they are covered in preservatives, colourings and other E-numbers, and I don't control the salt and fat contents. How could you. How COULD YOU! Besides which, her tinned mince (catfood?) shepherds' pie just looked revolting. As did the potato wedge dip. Urgh. Urgh Urgh Urgh.

I'm disgusted. I'd like to say I'll not watch her show, but it's like driving past a culinary car accident. You can't tear your eyes away from it. I hope she's getting paid a hell of a lot for it by the convenience food lobbyists, because it's going to ruin her reputation.

Delia. Unfortunately, she's not having a laugh.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Where was I?

I'm sorry. I couldn't blog again until I won at Civilisation. I managed it last night, as Hammurabi of the Babylonians, on victory points. It was a massive anticlimax as I'd been aiming for a space station. Ah well.

Well I shall make up for it by starting a little competition. The first person to tell me where these photos were taken, wins. Wins what? I hear you cry eagerly. Just wins. One of you is bound to be competitive enough.

Monday, January 28, 2008


I am not an addictive personality. I can use the drugs I have tried (legal, I'm a bit prissy like that) without cravings establishing themselves. Alcohol I like but can happily spend a few days without, painkillers I take as little as possible, even morphine, nice though it is, did not trap me in its sleepy, cotton-woolen, and above all slimming arms. I came off it as soon as I could, too soon as it turned out, ouch, but I didn't like being on it. It was beguiling, but just not right.

But I think I have met my match in the form of a computer game called Civilization. And all I can say to the person who introduced me to it, is this: I have a LAN cable and I think the copy of the game that you so kindly gave me handles multiplayer. I am coming over, and you had better get the supplies in and marshal your puny military, cultural and scientific forces, because it won't be over until your puny nation have been ground into their malaria-infested marshlands and you yourself in all your imperial grandeur have been reduced to Ozymandias's feet.

I can't think of a game designed to madden a civil servant more. What, honestly, do I need temples for? Why is Bismark so ratty? Why do I have to put in an aqueduct to seaside cities when plains cities without freshwater access don't seem to need one?


You may not hear from me for a bit...

Monday, January 21, 2008


Phone rings.
Me: Hello?
My cousin: Hey there it's me, how NO ON THE POTTY, ON THE POTTY! are you?
Me: Very well thank you. How about you?
M.C.: Well we're all NO THE POTTY QUICK THE POTTY! very well.
Me: Good to hear. How can I be of service this evening?
Me: Do you want me to call you back in a few minutes when you've dealt with this minor family event?
M.C. No it'll be fine. Well, anyway, Mum and Dad are coming over and so we were wondering DON'T WALK ABOUT IN IT AAARGH whether you'd like to come around.
Me: It'll be lovely to see them. When would it be convenient?
M.C.: Well you're probably out at some fantastic party on Saturday aren't you? STAY WHERE YOU ARE, I'M BRINGING A CLOTH.
Me: As a matter of fact, I'm not at some fantastic party on Saturday evening, so I'd be free then.
M.C.: Could you come around for 5:30 then? We'll probably eat really early. AAAARGH NOT ON THE CARPET!
Me: Love to. See you then.

Two things about having all your friends become young parents simultaneously are the following. One, they ring up and yell at you about potties. Two, they all suspect that because you've not got kids, you're getting out a lot more and having a much nicer time than they are. I'm sorry, there's just no getting around this. After the conversation I've just had, I think they're probably right. Still, someone has to pay for my pension, so I shake all my young parent friends by the hand (after checking first and if necessary offering them a wetwipe) and encourage them to keep at it.

Ay ay ay, tengo un examen....

Por favor, desean mi suerte por mi examen de Español mañana, si, es verdad, es mañana por la mañana.

Tengo que tener exito, porque quiero aprender el flamenco....

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Should I sue?

Daffers stopped me as I was coming in last night, and very kindly handed me one of these:

Look what is all of a sudden available from Yves Rocher!

Tomato and Basil hand soap!

Hands up who thinks I should sue... Or do I have to wait until they produce Tomato and Basil Sandwiches soap?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Happy New Year 2008!

I'm off for a week or so. Maybe I'll tell you about it when I get back. Maybe not. In the meantime, a little Mornington Crescent, I think.

Here's the map. Heathrow Terminal 4, I think.